Having a go at MPs - their holidays, their pay, their slips of the tongue or imagined indiscretions - is pretty routine silly season red meat for the more excitable tabloids.

You may well have read some pretty unpleasant press coverage in recent days alleging that a small error I made at a St John Ambulance Reception I was hosting in Parliament by momentarily confusing Sajid Javid and Nadhim Zahawi was somehow or another racist. Anyone who knows me knows that could not be further from the truth. Most of the rest of the smearing tabloid story is equally untrue. However, I am much persuaded by the Royal dictum “never complain; never explain”, and so will resist feeding the low-grade journalist’s longing for silly stories by any kind of rebuttal in public. If any of my readers and constituents and friends have any questions at all about this silly little episode, then I will of course be delighted to answer them. Just get in touch via This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., and I will do my best to assuage any worries you might have about it.

As a bit of a reality check, here’s a flavour of what I have been up to in the current Recess.

Speeches at a lunch club in Tetbury, a reception in Brinkworth and a supper club in Ashton Keynes; attend outstanding event at Ashton Keynes School to open new buildings; surgeries at Cricklade, Malmesbury, Calne and Royal Wootton Bassett (about which more below); visit to Bosnia as Chairman of the all Party Group for the Armed Forces;  two days in Iceland at the Arctic Circle Conference and (virtually) attend stakeholders meeting of Government of South Georgia as Chairman of the Parliamentary Polar Group; (virtually) attend Tory Party Conference and meeting of North Wilts Conservatives Executive Council; attend funeral, Bradford upon Avon; meeting with Leader, Wilts Council for briefing inter alia on Covid upsurge in schools ; visit to Headteacher, Malmesbury Academy and undergo thorough grilling by highly impressive sixth formers; visit White Lodge long term care home, Braydon Forest; attend a farmers’ party near Melksham; visit the newly refurbished Cross Keys Pub in Royal Wootton Bassett; attend an art show in Brokenborough; and meet the newly appointed Crown Prosecutor for Wessex.

All of that is alongside the routine flood of correspondence (500 letters and 1000 emails sent since September); and trying to do a bit of reading and writing as well. So the Recess is not a holiday - anything but. I have particularly enjoyed the feeling of the World opening up again after 18 months of near hibernation; and of things ‘getting back to normal.’ A bit of that must be a determination to break the habits of Lockdown, by physically forcing ourselves to get out and about and start doing things again.

I have, for example, restarted physical surgeries (two Saturday mornings a month in four places); but comparatively few people have so far been bringing me their troubles. (It was 12/15 cases per Saturday before Lockdown, but down to 2 or 3 recently.) You may think that ‘surgeries’ in town halls are out of date. You would be right that most people tend to get in touch with me via email these days; but there are plenty of people who can’t or don’t want to; or whose problems are so complex that they really need to be discussed face to face. So I remain a firm believer in surgeries – and view them as an important part of my job. So do please come and see me if you have a particular problem; or perhaps just want to get your gripes off your chest. Mine is (I hope) a good listening ear. You can find the dates/locations on my website.

Parliament’s back on Monday 18th October; when I will be ready to seek to advance the causes of North Wiltshire refreshed and reinvigorated by a busy Constituency Recess.